HELL OR HIGH WATER
After years of estrangement, Texan brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) decide to rob the branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. For them, the hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that was stolen from under them. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves on the radar of Marcus (Jeff Bridges), a Ranger looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a murderous showdown looms.
Review by Louise Keller:
In the perfect marriage of plot, character, setting and music, Hell or High Water is a crackling good thriller, compounded by the contrast of thrilling action juxtaposed on its laid back, lazy small town backdrop, where nothing ever happens. This is the second screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, proving that his first (for Sicario, 2015) was no fluke, while English director David Mackenzie surprises by nailing every nuance of the film's Texan setting. It's a story about brothers, bonds and money; at its heart, everything is simple, yet there are enough layers of complexity to make this a paradox. As for Chris Pine, he is a revelation in a role that offers the all too handsome actor with classic features and melting blue eyes, an opportunity at last to show what he can do. It could do for him what Brokeback Mountain did for Heath Ledger.
There is space between the notes, in which Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' music seems to illustrate the simplicity and sparseness of the lifestyle in the one-horse towns where Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are robbing banks. 'Planning and doing are two different things,' Toby comments after the first outing. 'You're obviously new to this,' and 'You're not even Mexicans!' are two of the observations from bank staff. But there is more to Toby and Tanner than first meets the eye and we learn more about them and start to understand the reason for their actions when they return to their ranch. They are as different from each other as siblings often are: Toby is the conservative, considerate thinker whose concern lies for his two boys from his estranged marriage, while Tanner is the wild card ignited by the theatre of action, played to perfection by Foster. Theirs is an unshakeable bond.
In one of his best recent roles, Jeff Bridges plays Marcus, the drawling, wisecracking Texas ranger who is on the eve of retirement and dreading the prospect. He wants to figure things out and thrives on insulting and jiving with his part Indian and Mexican partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, solid), flinging good natured insults in all directions. They are a scintillating odd couple, bringing out the best in each other - as well as some humour, besides.
Everything reeks of authenticity and as the action reaches boiling point, we are barracking for Toby and Tanner at every turn. But we are barracking for Marcus, too - so he can finish his life-long vocation with a sense of badly needed satisfaction. The film is filled with twists and turns, as reflected by Cave and Ellis' soundtrack with titles like Texas Midlands and Casino, plus some other perfect tracks like Chris Stapleton's fabulous Outlaw State of Mind. The ending is perfect, leaving us with a tantalising thought of what is yet to come.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Distinguished by a wonderfully nuanced, varied and haunting score thanks to Australian musos Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Hell or High Water is a fascinating hybrid of melancholy morality play, modern Western and arthouse drama. If it doesn't quite satisfy this reviewer, it's mostly because too much detail of the story is lost in a combo of heavy Texas accents and a sound mix too big on the boom effect of bass, clouding bits of almost every line of dialogue. There is enough left to get the drift, though, and the cast delivers a fabulous mix of characters, all well formed.
As Toby, Chris Pine is a complex mix of dishevelled country boy and determined family man (even though his two young sons live with their mother), showing some of his impressive range as an actor - without showing the acting. As Tanner, Ben Foster, the edgy actor who can always be relied upon to make us dislike his characters but admire his performance, makes for a tragic figure as Toby's older brother. Unlike Toby, he can't help his wild self and barely stays out of prison long enough to get into more trouble.
Jeff Bridges as Texan Ranger Marcus, his retirement imminent, creates a wonderful, world weary character with a dark sense of humour, which he sharpens frequently on his Mexican/Indian partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, terrific). Marcus intends to use up all his Indian slights before he starts on the Mexican put downs. It's a great little double act that forms an important part of the film.
Not so important but hugely entertaining is a scene in the small town Lindsay T bone diner, where these two Rangers sit down for a quick lunch. Debrianni Mansini will no doubt become something of a cult star for her performance as the waitress, and the scene itself might become as famous as Jack Nicholson's 'hold the chicken' salad scene (also in a diner) from Five Easy Pieces (1970). It begins with the waitress - who doesn't look like a waitress - asking what it is they DON'T want ...
David Mackenzie can be proud of his film, as can Taylor Sheridan of his screenplay. Sound boys, back to the drawing board ...
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HELL OR HIGH WATER (MA15+)
CAST: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, Kevin Rankin
PRODUCER: Peter Berg, Sidney Kimmel, Julie Yorn
DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie
SCRIPT: Taylor Sheridan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Giles Nuttgens
EDITOR: Jake Roberts
MUSIC: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Duffield
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 27, 2016